Two cases of new Philippines coronavirus variant detected in England

17 March 2021, 07:23 | Updated: 17 March 2021, 09:50

The new strain has been designated as a "variant under investigation"
The new strain has been designated as a "variant under investigation". Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Two cases of a new coronavirus variant first reported in the Philippines have been found in England.

Public Health England (PHE) said the strain contains a number of notable mutations, including the E484K spike protein found in the Manaus variant.

It is thought vaccines may not be as effective against this protein.

READ MORE: Matt Hancock insists Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe

EXPLAINED: Covid-19: How differently are UK countries leaving lockdown?

The new strain has been designated as a "variant under investigation" (VUI) rather than a "variant of concern" (VOC), such as the Manaus strain.

It was first reported on March 9 by the Philippines, when 33 cases were recorded.

PHE said all appropriate public health interventions were being taken.

It said that one of the cases was linked to international travel and the other is still being investigated, but did not confirm where either had been found.

This variant has been designated VUI-21MAR-02 (P3) and PHE said it is continuing to monitor the situation closely.

There are now six VUIs and four VOCs being tracked by scientists in the UK.

Additional testing is currently being made available in targeted areas of England to suppress the spread of VOCs.

It comes as two more cases of the Manaus VOC were found in England.

One was found in the West Midlands and the other in Haringey, London, and both are linked to international travel to Brazil, according to PHE.

It comes as The Philippines has temporarily banned the entry of foreigners and limited the number of returning Filipinos at Manila's international airport as it struggles to contain an alarming increase in coronavirus infections.

The month-long travel restrictions, which will include a daily cap of 1,500 returning Filipinos, will begin on Saturday amid concerns over variants from other countries.

Manila and other cities in the capital region reimposed 7-hour night curfews for two weeks from Monday and dozens of villages have been locked down amid the surge in infections.

The Philippines has reported more than 631,300 confirmed cases and 12,848 deaths, the second-highest totals in south-east Asia after Indonesia.